What Harvard Business School Taught me About Being a Better Navy SEAL and Human Being
on March 9, 2023
Harvard Business School (HBS) has been one of the best investments I’ve made for my personal development.
I finished the two-year (3 for me, thank you Pandemic!) Owner President Program (OPM) in November of 2021. It’s essentially a gentlemen’s MBA for business owners.
What an incredible experience. The friends and network I’ve gained through the program, well, you just can’t put a price on it, it’s the true definition of priceless.
I can honestly say Harvard taught me how to be a better Navy SEAL.
There’s a lot of great things I learned as a Navy SEAL that translates well to business, and quite a bit that translates like a turd in a Sunday church punch bowl.
It would take me a few years to sort this out and recalibrate my friend or foe detector.
Here’s my top three lessons learned.
Frogman Ethics that Do Not Work Outside of the Military
- Win at all costs. Not a great strategy for building long-term relationships.
- If you’re not cheating you’re not trying. This works in warfare but not in business.
- You can trust everyone on your team. True in the SEAL Teams. The environment forces, even demands trust but on the outside the same does not exist. On the outside you have to trust but verify.
Navy SEAL Ethics that DO Translate Well On the Outside
- Strategic thinking. The Navy SEAL Teams are brilliant when it comes to strategy.
- Execution. I’m a dreamer and a thinker. My personality profile will tell you this, and that us dreamers aren’t very good at execution. A great gift of the military and the SEALs was that it made me a great executor. My friends often remark that my super power is getting $hit done. I’m extremely grateful for this.
- Always challenge conventional thinking. This has made me a great skeptic when I hear phrases like. “Impossible!”, “That will never work!”, “Artificial Intelligence will never replace my job as a designer, it has no soul.” The SEALs also made me appreciate being an early adopter and how using the latest tools can give you a competitive advantage on and off the battlefield.
- Meritocracy regardless of race, background, or pronoun. Ok, I’m cheating and adding a fourth to the list because it’s important to me, especially given the current state of affairs in a divided America. You place a transgender communications wizard in a SEAL Team and there would be a fight over who got this person in their platoon. Why? Because we want an advantage at all costs. It’s about pure talent, and nothing else and I love this about the military and the SEAL Teams. Most civilians have no idea that the US military environment is one of the best meritocracies around. Anyone who’s served will tell you this. Talent always rises to the top eventually regardless of a few rotten avocados (every organization has them).
I still laugh at this reporter who interviewed me a few years back, and proclaimed, “Your business seems to be quite contentious.”
My response was something like, “No shit Sherlock. Business itself is contentious.”
It’s like expecting the ocean to remain calm at all times. Calm comes but most the time the sea state is up, the wind is blowing off the bow and waves are crashing on the stern.
Any entrepreneur who’s been around a while will tell you they’ve seen the best and worst in people as a business owner. Suicide, lying, cheating, stealing, back stabbing, and more.
Why do it? I can only answer for myself. Because it’s fucking worth it.
Being an entrepreneur is like being the captain of a ship at sea and I like being captain.
Storms will constantly rise up and with it comes dangerous terrain to navigate.
Our jobs as captains is to keep the crew calm, the ship running, and always pointed towards our destination, even if we get blown off course for a while.
A good captain without a good crew is worthless and a great crew with a shitty captain is equally as worthless.
Let that sink in!
After going through my own version of entrepreneur version of Navy SEAL “Hell Week” (Yes they keep us up for five days with no sleep!), Harvard Business School helped me become a better human being and I’m forever grateful to the program for this and the network of life-long friends made.
The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday.
(Featured Image: Brandon (orange hat) with his friends Justin and Kristina in Nazare, Portugal.)